Carlo Alcos explores Yoga BasicsMarch 9, 2011
Every journey starts with a first step. Mine was the bottom step of the stairs leading up to Shanti Yoga studio. I was new in town, freshly arrived from Vancouver, and looking for change. I’d been traveling for the past few years, but that was a different type of journey. This journey wasn’t about the physical act of moving from one place to another; it was an inner journey I was beginning.
At the top of those steps I met Joy. She greeted me warmly on that chilly day. I took off my toque and shoes (no shoes past this point). Both of us look much younger than our actual ages. Joy attributes her youthful appearance to her yoga practice. As for myself, I’m going with genetics. But if yoga was responsible for her glowing energy, then that was something I wanted to be part of. I can’t rely on my genes to make me glow.
As it was the beginning of the month, I was in time to start her Beginner’s Yoga course — a four-week, eight-class program Joy puts on monthly. I went to a yoga class once before in my life. I was under no delusion that I didn’t need to start with the basics. As is one of the first lessons of yoga, I was checking my ego in at the door. I returned the next day, signed a form, rolled out my mat, and took my first yoga breath.
The Yoga Basics classes were the perfect pace for a newbie like me. Joy took great care in explaining everything to us students. She taught us to breathe with our Ujaayi breath and to be aware. Aware of our bodies, which so many of us neglect. She joked that lots of people consider their bodies simply as vehicles with which they move their head from one place to another. As funny as that sounds, it couldn’t be closer to the truth. We are creatures of habit, and usually our daily habits involve us repeating the same movements and postures (sitting and typing at a computer, for example) over and over again. Yoga helps to reverse and counter this.
Yoga is about balance. And not just being able to stand on one foot with our other foot on our thigh and our hands above our heads (tree pose). Yes, it can require this type of balance but, most importantly, it balances life. It provides us with methods to slow down and to become mindful of ourselves, not just of our bodies and our minds, but of our heart and our soul too. Without this mindfulness, it’s too easy to wind ourselves up with tasks and jobs and duties and responsibilities. Yoga has a way of dissolving the anxiousness associated with all of that. And not just while in practice. I am now more likely to catch myself in an anxious moment and remember to breathe, to become mindful again. This also helps me control my reactions and emotions.
One of my favourite aspects of yoga is that it doesn’t judge. The instructor doesn’t judge; other students don’t judge; you certainly shouldn’t judge yourself. As yoga students, we’re taught to let things just be as they are. That in itself releases the heavy weight of expectation.
Over the course of the four weeks I learned enough poses to be comfortable and confident practicing at home. However, I know that this isn’t a replacement for class time. It’s impossible to replicate the environment of a formal class — the community and shared energy (prana) that exists in that space can’t exist on my own in my house. So now that I have completed the beginner’s course, I’m taking a more advanced class here and there with a solid foundation and basic understanding of yoga. And when I can’t make it to a class, I roll out my mat at home and start breathing.
Carlo Alcos moved to Nelson to find balance and clarity, and believes he came to the right place.
He is a Contributing Editor at the on-line travel magazine Matador Network and a Copy and Fact Editor of Matador’s new print magazine, Beta, which will launch in March 2011.
He keeps a personal blog at Vagabonderz